Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Image of a waterway with reeds on either side. There is an empty rowboat on the right front edge. The background is a few buildings with orange roofs against a blue sky with white clouds.

Last night I had a dream about rowing through marshlands with a from seminary, and as often happens we were in our early 20s not our mid 50s. The marsh was familiar in the dream, though no place I have ever been. The waterway ranged from just wide enough for the rowboat to pass through the grasses to the width of a small pond or lake. It was a bright, sunny day with no clouds in the sky. We were both young and health, enjoying the day.

Then my friend was rowing without the boat moving at all. And, yes, you guessed it, storm clouds were gathering on the horizon. I offered to row thinking my friend was tired after having rowed for quite a while. Yet, when I took the oars and began to row, she told me I was doing it wrong and had to do it right or we’d never get anywhere. You see, I rowed by alternating left and right rather than pulling the oars together. My friend insisted that I row the “proper” way. Instead of arguing, I started to row by pulling both oars at the same time. The boat began to move in small circles, making no progress through the marsh.

For reasons unknown, this made my friend both frustrated and anxious. Soon she told me to do it my way so we could get somewhere before the storm arrived in full. I switched back to alternating oars, and the boat began to move. Through the marsh grasses we went. We moved quite quickly for some time. Then just as the marsh was opening into the ocean, I couldn’t make the boat move forward no matter how hard I pulled the oars. The rain had started. The waves were swelling. Lightning wasn’t far off.

My friend started to panic. She was sure we were going to die even though we were only a few feet from shore and, technically, could have gotten out of the boat onto the beach easily enough. For reasons known only in dreams, we didn’t get out of the boat. Instead, I asked her to join me on the rowing bench and take an oar. She did. And after a few false starts, we found a rhythm of rowing together that allowed us to get home safely.

It matters whose in the boat with you.

It matters what kind of boat you’re in.

I grew up watching boats. Small lobster boats, tug boats, big ferries, yachts, sailboats, big fishing boats…all kinds of boats. I never learned to sail or do much more than row a boat or paddle a canoe. I tend to get seasick in anything with a motor. And, yes, when I learned to row a rowboat, the only way I could do it was by alternating oars. To this day, I cannot row by pulling the oars together.

Having folx in your boat who know what to do when there’s a problem is important. Having someone who knows how the boat operates is equally important. Having someone who knows how to respond to whether also matters. And when you’re in a small boat where there are lots of bigger boats and ships, it’s good to have someone who knows the rules.

Over the last many months of pandemic, many people said things like, “We are all in the same boat.” That is never true. Some of us are in luxury liners. Some in small cabin cruisers. Some in little motor boats. Some in rowboats. Some in rowboats with small leaks. We are not all in the same boat. However, we are all in the same storm. That’s when the type of boat matters the most.

We need to stop pretending that everyone has the same resources. We need to stop pretending that everyone has the same access to housing, food, healthcare, etc.

It’s great that the federal government made Juneteenth a federal holiday. It really is. However, why are we not talking about reparations, racial disparities, injustice in our legal system, and all the other things that make Juneteenth an important holiday?

We are not all in the same boat.

We are all in the storm, though.

Who will speak into the wind and the storm?

Peace. Be still.

We are a long way from that. Figure out what type of boat you’re in and who’s in it with you. It’s time we start rowing together in ways that pull us toward justice for every boat in this storm. Then maybe we can step out onto solid ground…

RCL – Year B – Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – June 20, 2021 11 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 and Psalm 9:9-20 or 1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 18:10-16 and Psalm 133  • Job 38:1-11 and Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32  • 2 Corinthians 6:1-13  • Mark 4:35-41

Photo: CC0image by Szczecin/Polska

Categories
Poetry

Observations from Ancient Words

Image of green sand flowing through an hourglass on a black background.
The failure to recognize the obvious
always catches me by surprise.
Long, long ago Samuel told the people of God
that no good could come from the rule of kings.
They insisted on being like all other nations.
And along came the kings
who took their children for soldiers and servants,
their goods and grains for self-serving purposes.
Still, they did not learn.

What is our excuse?

We still fall under the rule of kings and presidents,
queens and congress,
to what avail?
Our children are still taken as soldiers and servants,
dying to preserve our sense of safety and superiority.

All is an illusion.

Jesus sat with a crowd of misfits and miracle-seekers
and called them his own – siblings in body and spirit.
Yet, we side with those in power,
ignoring the needs of our neighbors,
sanctioning state violence against those we fear,
huddling just this side of status quo,
ignoring the distance between this existence
and the realm of God.

When will we learn?

Samuel’s wisdom still holds truth:
there is no need to be like other nations.
We can turn our attention to the greater good,
the needs of our neighbors.
Soldiers and servants need not be the future
for anyone’s children
if we consider what God requires.

Where is that holy highway
for all to travel in peace
accompanied by mercy and justice?

Jesus showed us the way.
All that is required is to recognize siblings
where the world labels “other.”
Can we serve God with more than our lips?
Can we shatter the illusions of difference and division
created to keep us under the control of death and violence?
Can we let go of fear to make room for justice
and love our neighbors as ourselves?

For the love of God and all things holy,
may it not be too late
to save us from conformity, fear, and destruction.

For sermon help, go here.

RCL – Year B – Second Sunday after Pentecost – June 6, 2021 1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15) and Psalm 138  • Genesis 3:8-15 and Psalm 130  • 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1  • Mark 3:20-35

Photo: CC0image by günter

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

Do It Afraid

wall-2715809_1280
When I was about eight years old my brother dared me to jump off the high diving board at a community pool. I had passed the swimming test the summer before so I was allowed in the deep end. I wasn’t afraid of the water and I loved to dive headfirst off the regular diving board. However, I was afraid of heights so the higher diving board (maybe 8 or 10 feet up) was pretty scary. If I didn’t jump off that board, though, I would likely never hear the end of it. And I really wanted to be brave.

I went up that ladder one rung at a time. Breathless with fear, hands sweating and knees knocking. Up I went. It seemed like a long, slow climb and I thought that would be the worst of it. Then I was confronted by the walk out to edge of the diving board with nothing to hold onto. On the lower board, I had already mastered the run, bounce, and dive. On the high board, I could barely think about walking to the end and jumping feet-first. I stood with the railings firmly in hand for what felt like forever. Then I heard one voice cheering me on. It was the lifeguard who had given me the swim test two summers in a row, the lifeguard who didn’t believe I was only eight and confessed that she thought I was 11 or 12. I heard her call out to me, “You can do it! It’s the same as the lower board. Let go and run!” She kept talking to me while I tried to breathe deeper and let go of the railings.

The lifeguard moved off her stand and stood over by the ladder out of the deep end. She kept telling me I could make the dive. she said she would count to three and all I had to do was run and jump. She would stay right by the ladder and help me if I needed it. I remember feeling like it was only her and me, everyone one else faded into the background. She started counting and when she got to three, I let go, ran, bounced, and dove headfirst. Then swam over to the ladder where the lifeguard leaned over and told me that I was a “very brave girl” and that she was proud of me.

Fear can overtake any of us at any time. I’ll bet David was afraid as he stood immobilized by the weight of everyone else’s armor. The disciples were clearly afraid while the storm raged around a little boat while Jesus slept in the stern. Fear is sometimes a very reasonable response. As a child I had a fear of heights that was due, at least in part, to having some balance problems and falling a lot. It wasn’t entirely irrational; if I felt like I could fall, I became very fearful in high places. David had every reason to fear Goliath, especially when his movements were encumbered by armor designed for adults. The disciples also had reason to be afraid in that small boat as the storms raged. How could they have known that Jesus could calm the storm?

Fear can protect us or it can limit us. Last night at West Central Regional Youth Event, I learned a song called, “Do it Afraid.” It was a song encouraging justice-seeking even in the midst of fear. This is excellent advice, particularly when we are confronting injustice. Goliath wears many faces today. And the Philistines around us will do whatever they can to keep us paralyzed by fear. Sometimes even our allies will insist that we wear armor designed for someone else. It’s too easy to give into the fear that keeps us locked in oppressive situations or systems. Goliath runs the show and would like us all to believe that one small person can do nothing in the face of giants – racism, misogyny, xenophobia, white supremacy, and all the other isms and phobias that keep those with power in power. Yet, we are not in the boat alone and we have our own gifts that can be used to slay giants.

Jesus is the one who can calm the storms and fill us with courage. Jesus won’t take away the fear so much as he will cheer us on and encourage us to jump into the deep end, like the lifeguard in my childhood. Jesus doesn’t want any of us to be paralyzed by fear, especially when it comes to confronting Goliath. We don’t need to do what other people are doing; their armor may not fit us well at all. We do need to use our own gifts, even if they seem as insignificant as a slingshot, to confront the giants of injustice. We can do this. And it is perfectly okay to do it afraid because Jesus is in the boat with those who seek justice, promote healing, and embody love.

Peace. Be still.

RCL – Year B – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – June 24, 2017
1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 with Psalm 9:9-20 or
Job 38:1-11 with Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

Photo: CC0 image by Soorelis

Photo: CC0 image by Guy Dugas

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

The Place Where God Lives

all-saints-2887463_1920.jpg

What would it be like if we all just stopped for a moment and took a deep breath? What if we took that breath and imagined we were breathing in the very breath of God, and then exhaled everything in us that rejects God’s ways? Maybe we should breathe in and out a few more times… How many breaths does it take before we feel calmer, perhaps more hopeful? How many breaths does it take before fear, anxiety, and stress lessen? There are days when I wish everyone in the world would just take a deep breath, come into God’s presence, and relax for a few minutes.

Okay. So maybe I’m projecting. I’m just another pastor who has come through a very busy holiday season and I’m a bit drained. Sure. There’s that, but this Advent and Christmas was not like any I’ve experienced. All those promises of Advent – hope, peace, joy, and love – seemed a bit more distant and harder to bring into reality than in years past. And those of us who made it to the manger to honor the Christ-child were more worn out from the journey than in previous years. The need for the Magi to show up and remind us just who Jesus is, was stronger this year and, yet, so many of us remain unable to respond. In the face of all that is happening in the world, Christmas was a bit of a stretch for many of us. And now it feels like it was eons ago.

We live in a world not unlike Samuel’s where the word of the Lord is rare and visions are not widespread. I suspect God is still calling in the night though our ability to hear is significantly impaired. When fear and anxiety weigh heavily on us, who can hear God calling us out of sleepiness into a life of love and service? If we are able to take a few minutes to breathe, then maybe we will have the courage to listen for God’s voice and the trust needed to follow Samuel’s example.

Unfortunately, I think the problem lies deeper than our need for spiritual hearing aids. It has more to do with our reluctance to believe as the psalmist did – that God is with us wherever we are and God’s claim on us does not change in the depths of Sheol or at the farthest limits of the ocean. God is with us at the rise of the sun and in the absence of the moon. God is with us no matter what we think of ourselves. God made us – fearfully and wonderfully. The psalmist knew this in the center of his being. I’m not sure that we do. We put so much between us and God, that it’s hard to believe that God’s love permeates every aspect of who we are. Our inability to recognize it does not change the truth. Is it possible to breathe deeply enough to re-center ourselves in God’s unchangeable love for us?

As if to affirm this need to be spiritually and physically anchored in God’s love for us, Paul reminds us that our bodies are not our own. They are on loan from God and they are temples of the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a moment to breathe in this truth. Think of all the things we do with our bodies, to our bodies, that honor no one. The Holy Spirit dwells in us, no matter what we do to our bodies. Surely, we can be more careful with these temples of ours. And if we can be more careful with our own, can we recognize the sacred temples of our neighbors’ bodies? Still breathing?

Well, let’s keep at it because we are invited to do great things. Yes, Jesus did great things and people marveled. While it’s easy to forget that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, it’s even easier to forget that we are the embodiment of Christ. As such, we are to be doing great things. Maybe not opening the heavens so that angels can come and go, but making manifest the realm of God. This is our job and it requires deep breathing for sure. Every time we give into the fear and hatred that those in power sow among us, we are failing to embody Christ. Any time we respond to fear-mongering, racism, xenophobia, and the other hateful traits of the current administration, we are betraying the one who calls us by name in the deepest hour of the night.

During this season of Epiphany, may we all come to know God’s presence anew. May we breathe deeply and remember whose we are and what we are created to do. God has not stopped calling us. Visions are not as rare as we think they are; have you not heard the prophets calling us to peace and justice for all people? God is present with us always and everywhere (even if we forget or deny it). Our bodies are sacred temples on loan to us. The Holy Spirit would like a bit more comfort in her temples and she’d rather we not desecrate any bodies in which she dwells. God is waiting for us to do great things. May we have the tenacity (or is that audacity?) and courage to take a deep breath and echo Samuel’s words, “Here I am.”

RCL – Year B – Second Sunday after Epiphany – January 14, 2018
1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

Photo: CC0 image by Gerd Altmann

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

The Simple Complexity of Prayer

baby-499976_1920Okay. I’ll say it. I have some trouble with these kinds of scripture passages. It’s hard to know what to make of the stories where the impossible is prayed for and God responds favorably. Hannah was barren. She promised to give God her child if God would grant her one. Shortly thereafter, Hannah conceives Samuel. It’s hard. As one who is childless it’s even harder. All those prayers that filled my heart and mind for so long… What made Hannah so deserving?

I can’t help but think that there is something else happening in this story. Maybe it’s more about Samuel than about Hannah. But the nagging question is still there. You know the one – “What must I do to get God to answer my prayers like that?” It’s a question that many of us have in one form or another. Prayer is tricky business and Bible passages like this one are distracting if not downright deceiving.

Looking back on my life, I can see where prayers were answered and I didn’t notice. Sometimes the answer wasn’t clear for years and sometimes it was right there, possibly before the prayer formed on my lips. But there were some big ones, like having a child, that went unanswered. Sure, I made choices along the way that hindered the process, but God is bigger than that, right? Just ask Hannah.

I used to believe that I was not good enough, that I did not deserve to have God answer my prayers. During those years I also believed that my faith was inadequate as well. Who wouldn’t? Women like Hannah and Sarah and Elizabeth had their prayers for children answered. So if mine remained unanswered the fault had to be with me, not with God. Fortunately, I didn’t get stuck in this self-blaming space forever.

Prayer in and of itself is easy enough. There’s no wrong way or wrong time to do it. It’s merely a conversation with God. Most of us don’t spend enough time listening to God, but that doesn’t make our prayers insufficient or unworthy of a response. So why are some prayers answered and some not?

I don’t know. I can rationalize an answer pretty well, though. I can say that God has an inordinate number of prayers that need attention and some get missed or delayed. I can also say that we put a lot of stuff between ourselves and God that make the responses hard to perceive sometimes. I can also suggest that the Bible stories that have direct answer to prayers are a distillation of events and offered from the writers’ perspectives. These sound good on the surface, but, ultimately, I have to return to the simple fact that I do not know.

On the other hand, I do know that God answers prayers. While I do not have children of my own, I’ve been blessed in many ways. It is too late for me to give birth, however, God could have something in mind for me that I am completely unaware of in terms of children in my life. A saying attributed to St. Augustine, “If your desire is without ceasing, then the prayer is without ceasing,” gives me hope. There are multiple ways for prayers to be answered and hindsight is often the only way to see how and when they’ve been answered.

God is more mystery than we want to acknowledge. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pray for things we want and need. I don’t recommend the bargaining kind of prayer, but God hears the need no matter what words we use. Even though I remain childless, I believe fully that God hears our prayers and responds to our needs. Things get in the way of what God would want for us all the time. This doesn’t mean that God is not responding. It just means we might have to look harder or wait longer or be willing to accept a very creative answer.

Hannah received the child she asked for according to the story in 1 Samuel. She is a model of earnest prayer for sure, but there were other reasons for telling this story that had little to do with Hannah. Had she written an account of her desire for a child, it might look a lot different. If your prayers seem to be going unanswered, don’t blame yourself or think that God does not care. Take a breath, listen to the silence, and then look to see where your life has been touched by Mystery. You’ll likely find your answer there. If not, there’s still time. Who knows what blessings God has in store…20131019_150318

RCL – Year B – Twenty-fifth Sunday After Pentecost – November 15, 2015
1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2:1-10
Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

Top photo from Pixabay. Used by permission.
Bottom photo is my own.

Categories
Emerging Church Musings Sermon Starter

Ridicule, Reluctance, Racism, and Response

eyes-514276_1920

I wonder what God sees when God looks at us. Samuel didn’t see what God saw in the sons of Jesse. The folks in Corinth were not seeing each other as they were in Christ. The disciples didn’t see what Jesus saw in a mustard seed. And this week my FB feed is filled with vitriol which tells me that we don’t often see what God sees.

Caitlyn Jenner sparked all kinds of ignorant, hateful, and hurtful remarks even from a well-known author who writes about living in peace and loving-kindness with great frequency. The incident in McKinney sparked the same kind of hurtful responses. People I thought would “know better” posted things like, “It’s not about race.” How can we who claim to be Christians be so blind?

When I read through the 1 Samuel reading this week I was annoyed with Samuel for his blindness. Why could he not get let go and move into what God was calling him to do? He so stubbornly clung to Saul and the old ways of doing things. God had to give him step by step instructions just so David could be anointed the new king of Israel. My initial response to Samuel was one of impatience,  at least until I saw myself in him.

Until the last year or so, I never thought of myself as a racist. I’d work so hard to undo what I had learned as a child (I grew up in a very racist household) that it didn’t occur to me that some of those lessons had seeped much deeper into my consciousness. I’ve always had friends who are not white, so how could I be racist in any way? Well, when I first started hearing about black men being killed by police, my first assumption was that those men had been doing something wrong. I am ashamed to say that it took me a while to get to the place where I could say that we don’t kill people for stealing, or mouthing off, or walking down the stairs at night, or any of the other things these black men and women were doing when they were killed. And we certainly don’t use excessive force on girls in bikinis at pool parties. These people were killed or assaulted by police because they were black. It is about race and I didn’t want to see it for a long time.

girl-746430_1280

I see it now, though. I see racism everywhere in our culture. If you look, you will see it, too. You will see it in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, in our justice system, in our prisons. You will see it when you feel fear when encountering a person of another race walking down the street. You will see it when you judge another as “other.” I believe that God is speaking as clearly to those of us who cling to “old ways” as God spoke to Samuel. It’s time for a new way and God wants us to bring it about.

God wants us to bring about a church, a community, a culture, a world in which we see as God sees and we act with love and mercy. I know that this is not as simple as Samuel’s task of anointing David. I realize that the world will not change quickly. However, if enough voices are joined together in love, will that not change something?

While I’m speaking about love, I want to say something about transgender folks, too, because sometimes it isn’t about race. Sometimes the hateful, hurtful judgements come from a place of fear. I’m not a fan of Caitlin Jenner, exactly. I think she’s privileged and somewhat whiney. However, I do admire her courage and her using her power and position to educate people about transgender life. Just like every other kind of person around, transgender people have been in existence as long as human beings have. The difference now is that we have psychological and medical understanding that allows for trans folks to stop hiding and start living out loud. They should not be shamed or ridiculed for claiming their true identity. No one should.

This culture of fear and hatred of persons we deem as “other” comes from same place that racism comes from. I do not believe it has a place in the lives of anyone claiming to follow Jesus. Dismissing and demeaning anyone is unnecessary and if we take the gospel seriously, then everyone is loved by God and deserves the same rights and dignity as everyone else. God’s love does not depend on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, education or any other social construct. God’s love is a given. When will we become agents of that love and mercy?

When I read the texts this week, I hear very clearly a call to a new future. I hear the call to stop clinging to and grieving for things of the past. I hear the call to see every person as beloved and whole in Christ. And I hear the call to let the old die away so that new and unexpected life may grow from what once was a tiny seed. Even though Samuel moved forward with reluctance, I pray for the kind of courage and grace that he displayed; he answered God’s call. May we all do the same.

RCL – Third Sunday after Pentecost – June 14, 2015
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 with Psalm 20 or
Ezekiel 17:22-24 with Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 or 2 Corinthians 5:6-17
Mark 4:26-34

Photos from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

Categories
Emerging Church Musings Sermon Starter

Willing or Not

This is my second blog post this week (here’s the first if you’re interested) and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am in over my head. Theologians have been discussing and defining “God’s Will” since the dawn of time. Honestly, it is not a concept I spend much time thinking about in the abstract. I do try to discern what God wants for me, particularly when faced with potentially life-changing decisions. I also try to discern what God wants for the church I now serve. These things mean something to me, yet describing and defining them is slippery.

martinique-206916_1920

In spite of my Calvinist seminary education, I am not a believer in predestination other than in the broadest sense. I do believe, as the Prophet Jeremiah told the people of Israel, that God plans only good for us, futures filled with hope. However, I know that we often choose things that God would rather we not. And then what happens to God’s plans?

If the reading from 1Samuel is any indication, then God revises God’s plan. The people of Israel were determined to have a king, no matter what Samuel told them of what God wanted for them. They chose a king and that choice eventually led to Jesus. It’s not that all the awful things that God warned them about didn’t happen because they did. In spite of those things, God still brought them to a future filled with hope.

When I was in the process of searching for a call to a church, there were several times when I was, essentially, the second choice candidate. People intending to comfort me said things like, “That must not have been God’s will.” I do think a couple of those places could have been in God’s plan for me. However, when they didn’t work out, other opportunities opened and I do believe that God called me to the church I now serve.

What I’m trying to get at is that I don’t think God’s will is an inflexible, carved in the proverbial stone kind of thing. It’s more flexible, adaptable and loving. I keep going back to the Israelites when they chose to have a king to be like other nations rather than go with what God wanted for their leadership. God didn’t walk away. They were not condemned. It’s possible that their lives became much more challenging as a result of their choice. Even so, God remained with them and kept planning a future filled with hope.

So when I look around and see all the suffering, brokenness, violence, and destruction in the world, I am confident that none of it is God’s will for us. To the contrary, these things result from choosing something other than the loving, merciful way of God. Or at least they are an indication that the world is not yet fully what God intends it to be. At any rate, there is nothing that will convince me that God’s will for any person, community, or nation is anything other than goodness and hope.

summer-783345_1920

To think about God’s will is to ponder the greater mystery of God. To seek God’s will in our lives is to be open to the human spirit being touched and transformed by the Holy Spirit. For those times when we choose other than what God would want for us, there is still the grace of God’s presence and God’s remarkable ability to come up with a new plan. In essence, there is always hope for healing and renewal even if it takes a very long time. Just ask those early Israelites…

RCL – Year B – Second Sunday after Pentecost – June 7, 2015
1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20 with Psalm 138
Genesis 3:8-15 with Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Photos from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

Maybe It’s Just Me But Jesus Might be Missing

This is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. It’s a day to take a deep, calming breath before Advent begins. It is an opportunity to look back at the last year before heading into the new liturgical year. The scriptures give us tools to guide our examination of this last year. They all point toward the sovereignty of God, the Lordship of Christ and beg us to ask if Christ really is Lord of our lives and what that means.

The passage from 1 Samuel records King David’s last words. One particular line stands out for me: One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land. There are a lot of rulers in this world who claim the authority of God and yet there is no peace. The latest election season hear in America highlights just how far from this vision followers of  God can get. Not that I think America is a Christian country or that is should be, but many of those running for office claimed Christianity. Unfortunately, they left out the “fear” or more accurately for today’s culture the “awe” of God and the election became about their own power and authority. How often does a similar shift occur in our churches or our own lives?

The other readings for this week are filled with promises of God’s future presence. These are striking given the state of our world. With all of the disasters, war, and violence of this last year, do we really believe these words of scripture? I’m not sure we live as though they are true. Can any of us sing of God’s majesty today with the same conviction as the one who wrote Psalm 93? Sometimes I think that we value the works of human hands far more than the wonders of God’s creation. The sunrise is still more amazing than any technology, but how often do we take time to notice and give thanks?

When we read the words of Revelation, do we hear the hope and promise in this beautiful, mystical poetry or have we succumbed to those who would misuse this text? Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come. What gets in the way of this peace? Where do we lose track of the promise of Christ’s presence now and in the future? Do our churches embody this belief of do they worship the Christ they have known in the past and not the One who can be known today or the One who is to come?

And then we come to the Gospel text… Is Jesus king or sovereign in our churches or in our lives? It was difficult in Jesus’ day for his followers to understand and believe what he meant. And Christ’s Truth has gotten more difficult to discern with the chaos of today’s world. But it’s there for all of us.

So on this last Sunday of the liturgical year the question to ask ourselves is, “Where is Christ in my life?” And if we are brave, we might ask ourselves, “Where is Christ in my Church?” It may no longer be politically correct to talk about the Kingship or Lordship of Christ, but how else do we ask who or what rules our lives?

More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters, more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is God! Your decrees are very sure;  holiness befits your house, O God, forevermore.

RCL – Year B – Reign of

Image

Christ Sunday – November 25, 2012

Series 1:
2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-12 [13-18]
Series 2:
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

Categories
Prayer Sermon Starter

There’s No Wrong Way to Do the Right Thing

Prayer is as natural as breathing for some people and a huge mystery to others. I find it fascinating that the lectionary puts Hannah’s story with predictions about the end of the world. Hannah went to pour out her broken heart to God and Eli thought she was drunk. Later, after her prayers are answered, her prayer is captured in words, a song of praise to God. In the Gospel reading, Jesus essentially says that the world will end with wars and famine. It’s a little confusing.

People struggle with prayer. How to do it. When or where to do it. Can prayer be silent? Does it have to be spontaneous or can it be written? How do you know that God hears you when the answer isn’t as obvious as Hannah’s was? The answers are simple enough. Prayer is opening yourself to God. It can be an outpouring of grief and longing as Hannah’s prayer was. Or it can be a song of praise. And it can take any form from silence to dancing. But this isn’t the problem for most people. The problem is trusting that God will respond.

I don’t know much about the world ending or the Second Coming, but I do know that the world could use more prayer – more people seeking to open themselves to God. It doesn’t so much matter how you do it. Just do it.

Hannah went to God with her need. She didn’t even pray like everyone else, apparently, because the onlooker thought she was drunk. But God heard her.

RCL – Year B – Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost – November 18, 2012Image

Series 1:
1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2:1-10
Series 2:
Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

This  is a photo of  my painting , “Fall Fellowship”